Hampshire County Council Trading Standards is warning elderly and vulnerable homeowners not be tricked by cold calling fraudsters, after victims recently lost more than £50,000 in a loft insulation scam.
Councillor Roy Perry, Leader of the County Council, said: “Helping elderly and vulnerable residents is a key focus for Trading Standards who recently prosecuted staff at two companies who made false and misleading claims to sell loft insulation foam, called Icynene, which was unsuitable and unnecessary for the victims’ roof spaces.
“However, Trading Standards officers know this is not an isolated case and cold callers are targeting elderly and vulnerable people with a range of products they simply don’t need. We are warning people not to show interest in any offers they receive through cold calling or leaflet drops. Instead, consumers should get at least three written quotes from reputable businesses or traders who are either members of the Trading Standards approved Buy With Confidence scheme or a recognised trade association.”
Earlier this month (November), three men linked to the loft insulation scam were sentenced at Southampton Crown Court. Under the company names Energy Foam Seal Limited and Thermaroof Limited, they targeted more than 30 vulnerable and elderly people across Hampshire, Dorset and the Isle of Wight through cold calls from December 2012 to September 2014.
Thirteen victims suffered a combined loss of £53,000, whilst a further 19 victims were stopped in time from making combined payments of £93,860.
Pamela Hanham, from Waterlooville, lost £6,898 after she was cold called. At the time, the 69-year-old was caring for her husband Ron, who has since passed away.
Pamela said: “I was very stupid but I do feel I was taken advantage of. I had been nursing my husband who was effectively bed-ridden for the last 18-months of his life. One of the symptoms of his condition was that he felt the cold terribly. Normally I wouldn’t have been caught out, but it was a stressful situation and I wanted to help my husband feel more comfortable.”
Victims will be partially compensated after £28,554 was frozen in a bank account linked to lead fraudster Stephen Rosen. As company director of Energy Foam Seal Limited and Thermaroof Limited, the 47-year-old from Wokingham was given a two-year suspended sentence and 300 hours community service, after pleading guilty to two offences of participating in a fraudulent business and five offences of fraud by false representation.
Energy Foam Seal Limited salesman Gary Holzman, 41, of Bracknell, was given an 18-month suspended sentence and 200 hours community service after pleading guilty to eight offences of engaging in misleading commercial practice. Energy Foam Seal Limited company director James Dellaway, 36, of Bournemouth, was sentenced to a 12-month suspended sentence and 100 hours community service after pleading guilty to one offence of engaging in unfair commercial practice.
Hampshire Trading Standards led the investigation with help from Southampton Trading Standards, Isle of Wight Trading Standards, Dorset Trading Standards, the Tri-Region Scambusters Group and National Trading Standards.
The offences took place in Botley, Hedge End, Dibden, Portsmouth, Havant and Waterlooville in Hampshire, Cowes, Shanklin, Newport and Sandown on the Isle of Wight and Weymouth in Dorset.
Carl Robinson, Chair of the Tri-Region Scambusters team, said: “This is an excellent result and reinforces the value and success of collaboration between local authority Trading Standards services and regional assets such as the Scambuster teams. Criminals have no respect for local authority borders but together, as this case shows, we can successfully prosecute such cases to protect vulnerable consumers.”
Businesses and traders on the Buy With Confidence scheme are approved by Trading Standards, to ensure their trading practises are legal, honest and fair. For more details visit www.buywithconfidence.gov.uk.
The latest scam alerts can be viewed at www.hants.gov.uk/tradingstandards/consumeradvice/scams